Theater review: Breaking up is hard to do
Dinner with Friends
By Donald Margulies
Through June 23
Nutley Little Theatre, NLT Barn
47 Erie Place, Nutley
By GWEN OREL
You don’t have to be married to be touched by “Dinner with Friends.”
In Donald Margulies’ play, which closes Nutley Little Theatre’s 83rd season, one couple, Gabe and Karen, both food writers, are shocked by the dissolution of their friends’ marriage.
Twelve years ago, Karen introduced Tom and Beth in Martha’s Vineyard. We get to see that scene in a flashback.
Margulies’ play won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for drama. Beth (Lisa Barnett) reveals to her friends Gabe (Chris Colicchio) and Karen (Amy Boardman) over dinner that Tom that Tom (Montclair’s Michael Smith-Gallo) is leaving her,.
In the hands of a lesser writer, Gabe and Karen would discover their own marriage to be hollow. Spoiler: that’s not what happens. Instead, Margulies explores how relationships change over time, whether we ever truly know our friends, whether people ever truly know one another, what marriage demands, what secrets are kept, what is revealed. Tom and Beth face off: he’s angry that she told their friends first. Karen and Beth have lunch: Karen is weirdly contented, and in a new relationship.
Gabe and Tom meet for a drink: Tom is full of joy about his new life, running, enjoying a loving relationship, starting over
It’s Gabe, performed with nuance and gentleness by Colicchio, who is the moral center of the play. He know that youthful abandon gives way to practicalities — and is OK with that.
Whether you’re married or not, anyone over 30 can relate.
Not all of Cynthia Ross’ direction lives up to the performances. Scene changes are fussy and long. Some business made little sense. Acharacter sweeps the shards into the corner, though a dust pan is right there. But Ross has elicited moving performances from all. Smith-Gallo, using what appears to be a Queens accent, reveals hurt and vulnerability in an unlikable guy. His intense scene with Colicchio’s Gabe late in the play is a stand-out. Long before Gabe tells Karen that a proposed meeting with Nancy (the travel agent for whom Tom left his wife) will never happen, we know, watching Gabe’s small signs of withdrawal. And we see that Tom sees as Gabe, whom he’s known since college, recedes.
If you’ve ever broken up with a friend, you’ll ache.